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I watched this movie as part of a special preview group of moms through
MomCentral, and I was struck at how dark and dramatic it was.
I was expecting something lighter (as it was being screened to a group of moms) but was thrilled that it wasn't some 'feel good' movie. I prefer darker, intense movies and this delivered.
If you like indie movies that are edgy and dramatic - I think you'll enjoy this.
The plot centers around a family who appears perfect on the surface but is hiding a dark secret - I don't want to go into any more detail. But it's a great movie, although i wouldn't show it to my kids!
The problems with "Mighty Fine" begin with the genre. Let's make this
clear, it's not a comedy. There are a few moments and lines at the
beginning that aren't as serious and fairly humorous, but it's a drama.
The plot quickly devolves into a full-on family drama with serious
issues where the characters need to rely on their internal strength to
Joe Fine (Chazz Palminteri) moves his whole family from Brooklyn to New Orleans in 1974, and literally he moves them since he didn't tell them in advance. Surprise! Oddly most of the characters don't see anything wrong with that. The other main member of the Fine clan is Maddie (Rainey Qualley) she's the one that doesn't think this is quite right and is the only one we can understand, care for and sympathize with. The younger daughter, Natalie (Jodelle Ferland), is fine too but she's much younger and more care free.
The father has money, status and other similar issues. He has a need to provide for his family and if that is ever in jeopardy he becomes increasingly unstable. It unfortunately was probably a common characteristic among war vets of the era. And that's why I have such a problem with this being classified as a comedy. The story probably applies to other families and it's not likely something they want to relive as a light-hearted laugh-fest! I wonder if Adopt Films would be willing to pay for their therapy afterwards? I doubt it.
Now that you're fairly warned about the dramatic issues explored, the teenage daughters were good characters, likable, which is pretty important and the young actresses were good (include Andie MacDowell's daughter Rainey Qualley). Palminteri gives a forceful performance but don't expect him to veer too far from his mobster typecast roots. The poorest realized character was the "mother". That word goes in quotation marks because I feel sorry for anybody who was "raised" by that character. She's not a terrible person, she's just not a person. MacDowell put on a terrible European accent and paraded around the house parroting everything that her unstable, deceitful and volatile husband said. Thankfully "Mighty Fine" is pretty short and eventually the daughters become their own role models.
Who Might Like This: People who like 70s-era family dramas; people who like stories of teenagers finding the internal strength to rise above their circumstances.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In the movie Mighty Fine, Joe Fine instructs the movers from Exodus
Moving Company to be very careful with his disco ball when his family
is relocating from Brooklyn, NY, to New Orleans, LA. I guess having a
personal disco ball was a status symbol in 1974! Just like the tiny
mirrors on a disco ball, the movie "Mighty Fine" shows us the many
different facets of a family, especially when that family is dealing
with Joe Fine, portrayed by Chazz Palminteri. In a live chat after a
recent online preview of the film, Palminteri called Joe Fine a
"paradox," a man who vacillated between angry rages and being the
benevolent charmer who tried to keep everyone happy.
When the Fine family, consisting of dad Joseph, mom Stella, (who spent time in hiding as a child during the Holocaust); 17-year-old Maddie, and younger sister Natalie pull up stakes and move to Louisiana in 1974, we learn that the women of the family hope this move will dilute Joe's tendencies to angry rages. The deterioration of the financing for Joe's business, though, revives the rage monster and it wakes up hungrier than ever.
Stepping away from the heavy topic for a moment, I have to share the fun and retro-themed joy of all the 70's paraphernalia in this film. (I was 10 in 1974, the year in which the film is set.) Since there was a live chat occurring among all of the participant bloggers when we watched the film online, it was amusing to hear reactions ranging from, "Oh My God people once smoked inside houses!" to "Oh yeah, I can remember when we had to dial the phone using that rotary dial." Back to the film's "heavy topic." It was sobering to hear all of the experiences with emotional abuse that the participant bloggers shared. Women whose mothers made courageous decisions to leave everything behind in order to get out of abusive situations; women who had been victims of abuse themselves; women who hypothesized that in 2012 Joe Fine would have had access to a mental health professional who would do a whole lot more than his family physician, who Joe convinced that the only problem was a bit of business stress.
Natalie Fine recites a poem at the end of the movie. A line from that poem stayed with me after I watched the film: "There's a monster in dad, and it makes him wicked mad." When asked about emotionally abusive parents such as Joe, Chazz Palminteri said that every parent needs to remember: "You are a mirror." What did Maddie see in the mirror of her mother when she tried to placate Joseph? What did both girls see when Stella made her final decision? You'll have to watch the movie to find out.
I was very surprised to see that Mighty Fine has such a low score on IMDb. I can't figure out why that is. It was a very well done movie, with distinctive characters. Chazz Palminteri was excellent as a loving, but troubled father. Andie MacDowell was better in this movie than I have seen her in other films -- less wooden and her accent is strong and consistent. The actress, Jodelle Ferland, is a beauty -- very similar in looks to Megan Fox. The actress playing the younger sister, Rainey Qualley was quite expressive and consistently good. The ending was somewhat unexpected but satisfying. All in all, it's well worth viewing.
Mighty Fine is driven by Chazz Palminteri's powerful performance as Joe Fine, the loving but troubled father who can't control his inner demons. Chazz fills the screen with a combination of vitality and menace as he drags his family literally kicking and screaming in his single-minded pursuit of his dream. Andie McDowell pulls off a new type of role for her, as Stella, a Holocaust survivor "rescued" by Joe but later uprooted from Brooklyn to New Orleans, along with the couple's two teenage daughters. The kids give affecting performances too, especially Jodelle Ferland as Natalie, the aspiring poet through whose eyes the story unfolds. Director Debbie Goodstein is sure-handed in her feature film debut, bringing her own script to believable life. You'll laugh and tremble with Stella and the girls as they careen along with Joe toward a shattering day of reckoning.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Set in the 70's, a family of 4 moves from their home in Brooklyn to New
Orleans to begin a new life. By all appearances this is a happy,
thriving family... but, they have a secret. The father, Joe Fine,
played by Chazz Palminteri, has anger issues. His wife, Stella, played
by Andie McDowell, is an enabler. The daughters, "Maddy" and "Natalie"
suffer the consequences of their father's unpredictable mood swings.
Joe Fine is the king of his castle, who feels that his self worth is determined by his wealth. He enjoys a lavish lifestyle until overseas competition takes a tole on his business. The prospect of failure puts Joe in a tailspin that nearly causes the destruction of his family.
Stella has been abused for so long that the abuse seems normal and she makes excuses for her husband's behavior, rather than confronting him about it. Maddie, the 16 year old daughter, constantly butts heads with her dad and the more demanding he becomes the more she fights back. The youngest daughter, Natalie, is somewhat more forgiving. The movie is told from the vantage point of a grown up Natalie, looking back on her childhood. The narration is provided by Janeane Garofolo.
It's been said that a good movie lingers with you long after you've seen it. This is definitely the type of movie that you'll think about, and probably talk about, for quite a while. It's not easy to watch. In fact, there are scenes that will have you holding your breath.
During the chat with the author, Debbie Goodstein, and actors, I learned that Joe Fine wanted to be Super Dad, he loved his family and there wasn't anything he wouldn't do for them. This is not at all how I viewed Joe in the movie. When he 'treats' his family to an Elvis Presley concert, an elaborate house, a new car, and jewelry I felt he was trying to make up for the abuses he'd put his family through...like a man who hits his wife and and later brings her flowers and begs for forgiveness. I could not be sympathetic to Joe. In fact, like his daughter, Maddy, the more Joe gave his family, the more I disliked Joe. Without giving away the ending, I'll just say there is hope for this family.
The movie is loosely based on writer/director Debbie Goodstein's
childhood experiences with her family, so it's kind of based on actual
events. Joe Fine (who is Chazz Palminteri's character) has a great
sense of pride for himself and his family and that pride can take the
turn for good and bad since he sometimes lashes out at his family. His
wife, Stella (Played by Andie MacDowell who I also love) is constantly
defending her husband's behavior since he is the provider for the
family and it takes a tole on the children since they feel their Mother
is kind of like a door mat since she acts like their father can do no
They have two children, two girls to be exact, named Maddie and Natalie. The oldest daughter is not afraid to speak her mind about her dislike for their father's behavior towards the family, while the younger daughter takes after her mother and constantly forgiving and defending him. The movie deals with the families struggle with their conflicting personalities and dealing with their relationship and bond as a family and the strain that Joe's personality and treatment of the family has on them. Chazz Palminteri is honestly amazing as this character and his performance truly makes the film shine.
I recently got the opportunity to watch the brand new movie, Mighty
Fine, starring Andie MacDowell and Chazz Palminteri, one of my favorite
actors, by the way. I convinced myself that despite this movie's
sensitive subject matter, I would be able to maintain composure. I told
myself that no matter what I saw, I wouldn't allow my emotions get the
best of me. I couldn't have been more wrong. This movie was powerful,
moving, and incredibly hard to watch, especially for a survivor of
I began watching this movie, perfectly fine. Sure, there were some red flag moments. I legitimately felt for the wife and daughters in this film, which portrays the classic, emotionally and physically abusive household. I felt bad when they got belittled and yelled at...I wept for them when it turned physical in nature. It brought back painful memories of my first marriage. The ONLY good thing to come out of that relationship, if you can call it that, was my son. He is the ONLY "good and pure" thing my ex-husband has ever done. My ex was physically, mentally, emotionally, and even sexually abusive towards me. It was this way for YEARS, and he always tried to blame ME for his sick, sadistic behavior. I will not go into detail here, but it was BAD. The best thing I have ever done, for me or my son, was to find the courage to leave.
My biggest problem watching Mighty Fine? To be completely honest, it's that I wasn't MORE disturbed. The movie depicted the father as a "monster" with severe mental illness...He treated his wife and children like second class citizens...Yet the whole time I was watching, all I could think was "This is nothing compared to what I have been through." I would definitely recommend the film, Mighty Fine, to anyone who wants to learn more about the commonly hidden world of emotional abuse. This movie is raw, honest, and to the point. It doesn't sugar-coat anything. My only wish? That my own experiences weren't so much worse than the depictions in the movie. It brought to light how sadistic and truly abnormal my own experience has been, and that left me in tears. Emotional abuse is an issue that NEEDS to be addressed, and Mighty Fine is a great start and a wonderful ice-breaker.
Mighty Fine focuses on a Jewish-American family in the 1970's after
they move from Brooklyn into a luxurious new home in New Orleans. The
head of the family is Joe Fine, played by veteran actor and one of my
favorite leading men Chazz Palminteri, accompanied by his wife Stella
(Andie MacDowell), his oldest daughter Madie (Rainey Qualley), and his
younger daughter Natalie (Jodelle Ferland). Joe and Stella are beyond
excited for this new change - even Natalie, the young writer of the
family holds some dearly strong optimism. The one who objects the most
is Madie, who sees her father's allegedly kind gesture as an act of
inexcusable selfishness as she had to drop everything, leave her
friends, and now assimilate to a culture she doesn't remotely hold
Just when you think this takes over and becomes the facile plot-point of the film, the curve-ball is thrown. We see Joe's descent into madness, with stress at work boiling over his head, family disconnect, and bottled-up rage coming through like never before. He becomes verbally and physically abusive towards his wife and children, threatening violence, embellishing every little mistake, etc. All while Natalie captures her thoughts through diary entries.
Mighty Fine is a semi-autobiographical tale of writer/director Debbie Goodstein's childhood, which was surrounded by success with her writing and heartbreak with her father's mental instability. It's admirable to see that the film never seems to channel the lines of self-indulgence or self-satisfaction. It's surprisingly conducted on a small-scale and never seems overreaching. The film is so small-scale, at times, it feels like a TV pilot - a competent one, at that. We get to know the characters, we see their hardships, then when the credits finally role, we realize we wouldn't really mind seeing them again anytime soon.
However, at seventy-nine minutes, it feels as if Goldstein was handed the runtime prior to shooting and told to make a film that wouldn't go a minute over eighty. Mighty Fine seems to casually go about its runtime for the first forty to forty-five minutes, then rushes to include the plot-points of stress escalation, characters with mental states on the tipping point, suicidal thoughts, fights, etc in the last thirty minutes. The biggest problem is that this is all happening way too quickly, with certain little plot-strands being abandoned right after they're brought up.
Fortunately, Might Fine at least rebounds with its competence and gentle, well-articulated craft of storytelling and focus. The family is given a wide-range or interaction with each other, and Goldstein is essentially filming on an open range with several characters to look at, doing a fine job (or a mighty fine job) of giving them all their own time to shine. This is simple, genial fare, but it remains impressive given its lack of indulgence or mediocrity in tone.
Starring: Chazz Palminteri, Andie MacDowell, Rainey Qualley, and Jodelle Ferland. Directed by: Debbie Goldstein.
I recently had the opportunity to preview Mighty Fine which hits theaters on May 25th. I loved the movie and the powerful message that it portrays. I recommend it for everyone to see...It does however have strong language, but I guess that was necessary to go along with the father character, played by Chazz Palminteri. You will fall in love with Rainey Qualley, Andie MacDowell's real life daughter, in her debut as Maddie Fine. The movie will leave you emotionally raw as it opens your eyes to a behind the scenes look at emotional abuse. May be hard to watch for those who have experienced abuse in their own lives. Great cast, great movie!!
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